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Two Stories, Virginia Woolf & Mark Haddon

This is a special edition to mark the 100 years of the Hogarth Press: very dear to me as a Woolfian. The original Two Stories, featured stories by both Leonard and Virginia Woolf, but to mark the centenary, Mark Haddon was commissioned to write a story, to be included instead of Leonard’s. This story is entitled St Brides Bay.

What is clear in Haddon’s work is the sense of description that ultimately flows from the page. An expert craftsman, here, it is at its finest. The protagonist, an unnamed woman, is attending the wedding of her daughter, Nikki, to a woman named Sam. It follows the protagonist’s narrative as she recalls memories past, including a woman called Lucy, who seems to be very dear to the narrator. Whether this is of a romantic nature is unclear, even though the narrator has been married for 19 years. ‘He had accepted her.‘ implies that the woman did have a romantic connection to Lucy. The thing I like about this story is that it is very simple, but perfectly effective. There are more questions than answers, and it has made me think, long after reading it.

Woolf’s The Mark on the Wall is deeply intriguing. An excellent example of stream of consciousness writing, possibly typified by overly long sentences, the plot focuses on what the author sees as a mark on the wall. This leads the narrator to ponder about many things in life, including religion and nature. As a fan of Woolf, I wonder whether this is actually Woolf writing as herself, or from a character point of view. I believe, through her diaries and letters, that it is something that Woolf had experienced herself. This is Virginia speaking. Not through a character, but her own, private thoughts. Stream of consciousness is characteristic in her diary, as one would expect self writing to be. I can imagine Virginia, in Hogarth House, pondering what this mark could mean, or signify. And it is her sense of humour, in the story, to reveal what the mark actually is.

This is a lovely edition to mark the centenary of the Press, and I recommend it to all Woolfians.

Two Stories is published by Hogarth, imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available at all good independent bookshops.

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